Thursday, September 2, 2010

Today's Events...

Things are getting interesting in therapy...

When I walked in, Kendra and Cara (Kendra's intern) were at the door to meet me. I knew something was up right then because normally only 1 comes to get me.

Kendra had given Cara more responsibility, so she had to "assess" my condition. This meant watching how I walked in, asking the questions on what was going on (and re-asking as she wants to figure out the source of my discomfort), and then measuring.

They discovered that my bad leg has flattened out to where I'm right at zero degrees. That's good. In fact, to compare against the good knee, apparently I now have more flexibility in the bad leg. (See, I told you I was working hard!)

This allowed me to lose 2 of my exercises: Bridges and Heal Slides! Bridging is actually easy - anyone can do it. You lie on the couch for 10 minutes with your leg propped up on the arm and keep it straight.

But heal slides were terrible... very painful. They were good in that I was able to learn how to bend my knee back. Thank goodness those are finished!

Then they decided to give me more difficult exercises. You see, I thought, "Great... losing 2!" I didn't know I'd gain 2.

One was to lift my body using my hips but to only use one leg while the other one sticks straight out. Holy crapamole that was difficult! And, of course, I was pouring sweat after doing 30 with each leg.

On top of my other exercises, I also had to learn one called Standing Knee Extensions. The photo doesn't really do it justice, but I couldn't find exactly what it was doing.

They attach a long rubber band (thick - it actually was like a balloon) around the ankle of your good leg. Then, you balance on the bad one. The exercises is to face twelve o'clock and extend your good leg forward so it's tensed from behind. You do 30 of those and you're not supposed to drop the attached foot.

Then you turn to your three o'clock. This time the tension is coming from your side while you're balancing. After 30 you turn to the six o'clock and now your pulling from the wall while facing it. Finally, you turn to nine o'clock and pull from the side.

It's freakishly crazy! Why would you work the good leg? Because you're focusing on working the muscles from your butt to your hip to your quads to your calves... all while balancing on that bad leg.

When I was finished I told Cara my whole side was just one big painful mass. Of course, whenever you say something like that they go into a defense mode to figure out if it's a good pain or a bad pain.

So as I was heading to the bike, Kendra goes, "Would you like to try the Elliptical machine?"

Elliptical means "comfort running" in my book. "Of course I would!" I told her.

For those that remember, prior to the surgery, Kendra had me get on the elliptical. Well, it didn't go well. It was painful, I felt like I was locked up, and the more I rode the more it hurt. It was just one big hot mess....

This time: My first 2 minutes were very awkward. There was some pain, but I had a hard time pinpointing where it was or what it was to Cara. She said to shoot for 5 minutes. After about 3 minutes she came back over to check on me and I said it seemed to be getting better.

At 5, since she hadn't come to check on me, I decided to push to 6 minutes. I wasn't feeling the pain like I had earlier. Once I got to 6, she showed up and I told her I was stopping at 7.

Speaking of "hot mess," that's exactly what I looked like. I was pouring sweat - but I felt great! I finally got to do something that was important to my marathon training... and I had done it without feeling locked up.

Now we know why I felt that before - the dang suture was tying me down. Not to mention a kneecap that was riding "sidesaddle" and all of that scar tissue.

Kendra wanted to know how it went. I said, "I would compare it to the first time I was on the bike. It was awkward and tough because I had to learn how to make that rotation and trust my knee. But I think the more I did it, the better I felt."

Both of them were pleased and Kendra wants me to try to go to my gym over the weekend. The goal, like the bike, is to get to 30 minutes without resistance/tension. So I'm going to try for 10 and then make my way up the time frame.

One more thing... I noticed today how much muscle I've lost in the year and a half since I broke the knee. One of the exercises I do, I have to stand facing a mirror. Well, I have always had big calves. I've had them because of all of my years playing soccer.

Today I noticed that my left calf is about 2/3 the size of my right. It's amazing... which, I guess, it's also a measuring stick.

So my events today showed me that my "training" is all about making strides. Getting better at each exercise shows that I can lose some... gain others... and hopefully, life will return to normal.

Oh yeah: If you didn't know this already, today's date is 90210. I just think that's funny.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What's Your Excuse???

Today at Physical Therapy, Kendra saw me attempting to balance for 30 seconds on my one bad leg... shaking uncontrollably... and said,

"I love it when you're shaking!"

Shaking means, "You're doing it!"

I've hit the right spot. I'm working the muscle. And I'm freakin' dying!!!

I love it... too!

I've shared this before, but I'm really fighting for my life here. It's no secret - I want my life back.

It's not all about running...

It's my independence. It's my abilities that I've lost. In essence... it's the "me" that I want back. Senor Independent.

I know what my life was like prior to the break: I was a runner! I was a hiker! I could go up and down stairs without a care in the world. I was active...

I also know what my life was like between the first surgery and the second: Painful! Hinged! Locked up! I couldn't bend the knee without feeling the wires inside. In fact, they poked the skin all the time. I was counting the days until those suckers were cut out. To me, "life" was about to start up again!

And then, the next phase: Life between surgery number 2 and number 3. I took my doctor's advice: No need for therapy. Get out and walk. Well, I did... and it was painful. I kept thinking, "OK... keep walking and next week it will get better." It didn't. In fact, it got worse.

Then I went through a period of, "OK... fine... this is my life." I'll just learn to live with the pain, deal with the difficulties of managing stairs, never run again, and continue to plop an ice pack on the knee every night. Que Sera Sera...

Thankfully, I had 2 suitcases on my back: Parents. They harped on me over and over that I needed another opinion. I think it came to a head during Memorial Day weekend. Both of them were shocked at the ice packs I was using each night. When I told them this was a nightly ritual, that sent them over the edge.

Which brings me to today... Why do I work so hard? Why am I shaking so much and making Kendra smile? Why am I the only person in the room that appears to be sweating?

Because I want "it" back! Badly! I want my "active life" back in the worst way!

While Kendra wants me to work hard, she cautions not to push it. When I told her I rode 6 miles on Saturday and rode 60 minutes total by days end, she was impressed. But, she wanted to know how I felt. Yes, I was sore. But when am I not... you know???

So it hit me today... I know what my excuses were before. And I know that I probably could just hang it up and not go through therapy. But for me, it's a choice. A choice to either "push through the pain" and get my life back... or become sedentary.

How many people have you seen who have a medical condition and choose not to work out? My father, Joel, is like me. He had a knee issue that kept him from walking - so he got it fixed and went through therapy. He wanted his life back. He made a choice.

Those of you who don't have a medical issue like this have a choice, too. You start and end your day... have you made positive choices for your life?

I want to encourage you, if you're not already, to choose wisely! Choose to be active. If you can't do it daily, do it every other day. Go for a walk. Ride a bike. Park further out. Take the stairs!!!

Let's all get rid of our excuses... and fight for our lives!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Latest News from Therapy...

Thursday was a little different... and VERY long!

When I arrived, I had to fill out a "scorecard" on what my range of difficulty is on a variety of normal, everyday occurrences. Example: What amount of difficulty do you have walking, lifting a bag of groceries, running, etc.

It was the same form I filled out when I started therapy... but I think they wanted to know what type of improvement I've experienced.

In some ways, I think I've improved a lot. Let's say when I started, most things were "Extreme Difficulty/Unable to Perform."

Now, I feel like I'm in the "Moderate" difficulty range.

Next, they decided to take some measurements. They pulled out their compass and had me stretch it out to see how flat I could make my leg. Right now I'm about 1 or 2 degrees off. However, when I flex to push the knee down, it becomes 0 degrees - which is the goal without flexing.

They measured me on the bend... prior to doing "Heal Slides," I could bend it 116 degrees. But after about a minute of heal slides, I could get it to 123 degrees. The goal is 125, which is what my other knee can do.

I then continued on with my exercises. These include quad flexing, leg lifts, more bending, leg presses, clam shells, bridging, and lots and lots of balancing.

The picture above is "similar" to what I have to do. Instead of a ball under the board, it's another board. You have to try and balance on it for 2 minutes going side to side. Then after that you flip around and try and balance front to back.

They also introduced an exercise where I stand on the bad leg for 30 seconds and try and balance. Not fun.

Then, my new favorite (sarcasm): Knee bend. This is the one that just kills me every time. I stand on a board and force myself to bend down. I have to do 30 of these. Misery!

This all took about an hour and a half. I then had to ride the bike for 30 minutes - which I did - as it's considered a "milestone." This week they'll add resistance.

While I was on the bike, Kendra's intern came over and asked me how my exercises were going at home. I told her before I went to work, I could get in 2-3 sessions a day. Now that I'm at work, I get in 1 a day and 2 on the days when I go to therapy.

Part of me has wondered why she asked - does she think I'm not doing them? I mean, personally, I feel like I'm working my tail off.

Saturday was a BIG therapy day. I ran through my routine of exercises, and then I decided to get on my bike and take on the great outdoors. I biked for 40 minutes and went just over 6 miles. It was a beautiful morning - the temps were in the low 70s!

Then, I went through another session in the afternoon and biked 20 minutes.

Today I spent most of my time in a car driving to and from Longview. How does it feel? Dang sore! That's just a long time to be doing that... I think it was 5 hours of driving.

Glad to be back home and on the couch!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Preach It, Brutha!!!

I hope you guys can watch this video. It's less than 2 minutes, but it definitely says a lot.

If you've been following this blog for the past year, you might remember an entry last September about Robert Griffin III. As quarterback of my Baylor Bears, he went down with a torn ACL...

It was a devastating injury... not only for him, but for all Baylor fans because our season went down with him.

While an ACL injury is a little different than what I experienced, it still is a difficult to overcome. Your knee is still opened up, you go through the same pain, and you have to go through therapy to regain what you lost.

With that said, I've been following his recovery very closely due to the similarities. When he speaks, I listen!

To see him running and cutting is inspirational to me. While I wish him well for the success I hope for my Bears, I really hope he doesn't have to go through this ever again.

Baylor plays Sam Houston State on September 4. I can't wait to see RGIII take the field!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Rockin' the Bike...

One of the exercises I've been encouraged to take up is biking. Not only does my therapist support it, but also my doctor. In fact, he's an avid cyclist.

Biking to me over the past 7 or 8 years has been on the trails - I really like mountain biking. However, jumping logs and rocks and going up and down dirt hills isn't really in the cards for me at this point.

Throughout my therapy, I've enjoyed getting on the stationary bike. The progress has been very tangible to me - I can see and feel the results!

Now, I'm ready for a new challenge - biking outdoors.

In order to accomplish this, I had to purchase road tires for my mountain bike. The new tires, called "slicks," replace the knobby "dirt" tires so one could ride smoother on pavement. I'm all about the smoother ride...

If you know anything about Dallas, you know it's VERY hot these days. In fact, it's the hottest August on record... EVER. I think it was 105 degrees Saturday and Sunday, and today it hit 107. Incredible!

So instead of slaving over a bike in a hot garage, I spent most of the day Saturday putting the new tires on my bike... in the living room! Let's just say it's good I'm single...

Which led to Sunday morning. I put on my Garmin Forerunner (wrist GPS), turned on my iPod, and out I went around 8:30 AM.

I had no idea how it would go. I've only been biking for 3 weeks. How would the knee respond? How long could I ride?

One thing I quickly discovered was I needed to raise up my seat... like WAY up. The higher the seat is, the less bending you have to do with the knee. You have a longer reach, and it made it a lot more comfortable.

I decided to focus on the rotation - the constant motion I was making with my leg/knee. It definitely felt different compared to the stationary bike. Outside, you deal with inclines... wind... and variations in speed.

My chosen course was one I was familiar with - my neighborhood. I used it during all of my marathon training days, so I know the obstacles.

Do you realize the last time I ran this route was April 22, 2009? One thing that has changed is the neighborhood. I used to run in a subdivision that was about 2/3 built. Now, it's fully developed. I was shocked to see all of the houses.

Being outside was "freeing" - that's probably the best word I can describe. I felt extremely independent, excited that I was outside in the morning air, and that I was actually an athlete again... or trying to be one!

If you were to see me riding past your house, you'd probably think, "That is one slow dude."

Yep, I wasn't breaking any records. I discovered my average speed was 8.3 mph and that my maximum speed was 11.9 mph (probably coming down a hill!).

For comparison: When I last ran this course, I was averaging a 6 mph pace. So, I'm biking now just a little faster than a jog.

Halfway through, I knew I was feeling the pain. My knee was very sore - probably from all of the normal therapy and then this little bonus activity. After about 3.5 miles, I started heading towards home. I decided I wanted to end with 5 miles.

So, what you see in the image above is me riding around and heading back to my house. The little blue mark is the halfway point.

It took me 37 minutes, but I achieved the 5 mile goal. I honestly felt great... and hope to do it at least once or twice a weekend (early!).

So, for those locally that don't mind a slow pace, I'm up for a ride!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Building Muscle...

I think my hard work is paying off...

When Kendra first approached me at therapy today, she wanted to know how I've been feeling since Tuesday's workout. I told her, "I've been extremely sore." She asked where, and I pointed to a point just above the knee.

She said, "That's the bottom of the quad, and you know exactly what we did to work that. It has a long way to go to get back to normal."

I think that's the story with a lot of my muscles...

A few weeks ago, I was at rock bottom. My strength was "non-existent," and I knew I had a long way to go.

When I first started my PT almost two weeks after my surgery, I struggled with just about everything I was asked to do. In fact, my session lasted less than 40 minutes because Kendra didn't want to cause any pain.

My knee was still really swollen, my stitches weren't exactly "finished" healing the wound (I busted one at one point!), and I was still using the walker at home.

I remember when I first started doing clam shells. It was so freaking painful... to get to 30 was pushing it. Today I did 100.

How about when I first got on the bike: I was going at 25 RPM and it took everything I had to make it to 10 minutes. Today my RPM (cadence) is around 65 and I can easily make 25 minutes (the only reason I get off is because my butt hurts!).

One of the exercises is in the picture above. Instead of using both legs, I'm to try and go as long as I can with the bad leg. The goal is to go a full 5 minutes with one leg.

When I first learned this exercise, I struggled big time. I could go about 15 seconds (a few dips) with one leg and then the majority of the time I spent using both legs. Today I realized I'm now able to go a majority of time with the one leg... but I still can't make it the full time with just the one leg.

The point I'm making is it feels so good to be making progress. I can feel the results... my muscles hurt! Ha! But, it's a good feeling.

I probably can compare it a little to my marathon training. If you remember (for those that have been following this blog for several years), you don't just go out and say, "I'm going to run 26.2 miles." You have to work up to that.

The first week I would focus on getting to 2-3 miles consistently... in a few weeks I'd be up to 5 miles on a run. Eventually, I could get to running around White Rock Lake (9 miles) in a single run after a few months.

I guess that's the same here...

Case in point: Tuesday's blog focused on how difficult it was for me to bend the knee to get to that point where I could take a "down" step. I struggled to get the first one... and then, in time, I made it to 10.

Today, I made it to 30. Yay Me!

Kendra was very pleased, and said I had a great workout today. She said I'm just making awesome progress.

Well, I'm determined... that's one characteristic I have in my nature. I know what I lost, and I want it back. "Eye of the Tiger!"

But frankly, I just think I've got a great therapist who knows how to push me... I can't wait to see where I am in a few more weeks!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On...

A lot of people over the past year, when they see me, think "running" is what was taken away from me. Meaning, as if that's the only thing I lost...

The fact of the matter is, I've lost a lot... physically and emotionally. I won't talk about the latter in this blog. :-)

During today's therapy session, I was halfway through my exercises when I heard the girl next to me tell Kendra that "stairs" are still a problem.

Looking at her, I honestly couldn't see a scar on her knee. It was swollen, but I gathered it had been a while since she's been into therapy and was starting up again.

She talked about how difficult it is to go down stairs. Ironically, that's one of my most trying things to do. My doctor wants me to avoid going up/down a flight of stairs, but at my work I have a few I still have to go up/down when I go into/out of the building.

It also made me realize that I can't be alone in this... that others (like the guy in the picture above) struggle with simple tasks... and have to re-learn maneuvers that we all take for granted.

I started thinking about this issue as I was working through my exercises. "I wonder which one of these helps the most? Is there any way I can fast-track this process?" I know... I need to be patient... but geez louise I've been dealing with this crap for a year and a half now! I'm tired of being "The Gimp."

I then had one of those little conversations in my head... albeit, a little prayer. As I was doing the heel slides (my favorite because they hurt like anything!), I just said, "Lord, I hope all of this hard work will eventually allow me to go up/down stairs again like a normal person."

Friends... God was listening to my silent frustrations/prayer. I soon received my answer.

Kendra taught me 3 new exercises today, but one in particular (the last one) was particularly shocking (as well as DIFFICULT).

Overall, I think Kendra is pleased with my effort and determination. I'm working hard during our sessions, as well as at home. The results show when I come in and she can see how far I'm getting.

Whenever I'm making progress, she's ready to teach me something new. I'll skip the other exercises just so I can explain this one. It was the last one of the day.

On a 12" x 12" wooden board that is about 2-3 inches thick (height), I am to stand on one leg and bend it at the knee to lower the other leg until it taps the ground, and lift it up. Sounds simple, right?

Well it is... with my right leg.

Before I started, Kendra said, "I want 30." I thought, OK... this is going to be tough but I'm going to do it.

I stood on my bad leg and held the other one out. However, trying to bend was like trying to flex steel. Everything shook... I mean EVERYTHING! It was like an earthquake was going through my body as I tried in vain to bend that knee.

Immediately, my heart sank. I realized this was not going to go well at all. I could also see it on Kendra's face that this wasn't what she was expecting.

Kendra asked if I was in pain and I told her no, I wasn't hurting... I just had no control or support. I was just one big "shake."

I could tell this was freaking her out and so she said, "OK... let's focus on one." So I did... and it was as if the dam burst because I finally bent it enough that I could dip that right leg down an inch or two.

Earthquake and all...

After that she said to go for two and we worked on it where I could get to 5... and then I made it to 10. I was pouring sweat!

I told her this felt exactly like when I go down stairs. She said, "Actually, this is the exercise to help you do that successfully." Not to be over dramatic, but I can't tell you how much that hit me...

I know my eyes were "watery" talking with her because I had just had that conversation in my head with God.. and this has been one of my biggest frustrations since day one!

Kendra said the muscle has not been used in a very long time, and that we will be focusing on building that up in the coming weeks.

Well, I'll just say my spirits were sky high for the rest of the afternoon. Not only that we have a plan, but that God answers the quietest of prayers!

Even when expressed through frustration!